Visitor numbers to Ballarat's tourist attractions have bounced back after a quiet pre-Christmas period with hundreds of families flocking through the gates in the days since Christmas.
Although the number of visitors allowed through the gates is still limited because of COVID restrictions, tickets that are available are being snapped up quickly.
And operators are hopeful the strong visitor numbers will continue throughout the holiday period despite forecasts from national Tourism and Transport Forum that the NSW border closure will cost Victoria around $172 million a day that NSW visitors would have spent on their holidays.
The number of Victorians visiting Ballarat's attractions will be helped by strong sales of gift certificates and annual memberships to the attractions in the lead-up to Christmas.
Many Ballarat residents opted to give vouchers, tickets and memberships to family and friends to encourage them to visit the city and help support the local businesses who have done it tough with no visitors for most of the year.
Others treated themselves to annual memberships to the attractions so they could visit multiple times throughout the year, hopefully with family and friends in tow.
Kryal Castle general manager Melissa Dimond said they had seen "huge growth" in gift certificates and vouchers given as Christmas gifts.
"It gives people something to look forward to and something to do as a family, to be out and about after being in lockdown," she said.
She said the ability to buy passes online, and thereby avoid heading to busy shopping centres in the lead-up to Christmas, was another driver in the popularity of gift vouchers.
"They probably bought everything they need to entertain the kids while they were locked down, and who wants to be at home now?"
Ms Dimond said the castle had been full of happy visitors each day since they reopened on Boxing Day.
"We are well up on other years and we are seeing just a huge amount of families coming out of Melbourne to visit us here. They are happy to be out and about."
Ballarat Wildlife Park owner Greg Parker said his staff too had seen an increase in gift certificates and yearly memberships processed before Christmas.
"We've been pleasantly surprised," he said. "Last week was quiet leading up to Christmas and we were a little bit down on visitor numbers compared to last year but the few days after have been pretty good."
But he was concerned about the predictions of multi-million dollar losses to the state's tourism industry from the NSW border closures.
"It makes everyone nervous, especially when you consider JobKeeper ends in March and we really don't feel ready for that," he said.
Boxing Day marked the first day that Sovereign Hill reopened to visitors seven days a week since March, but due to COVID-19 restrictions the park is limited to a daily capacity of 1500 people and tickets must be booked online.
A Sovereign Hill spokesperson was not available for comment but a check on their website revealed general admission tickets for Tuesday were sold out before 4pm on Monday..
The park has been open on weekends since November but many of its popular indoor attractions remained closed.
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But since the seven-day-a-week reopening those attractions - including dressing in Victorian costume for an authentic 1850s-style photo, travelling underground on the mine tours and knocking down the pins in the bowling alley - have been back on the to-do list for visitors.
"To be able to announce that we are welcoming visitors back seven days a week and that many of our much-loved activities that have been closed during 2020 will be open again is such a positive step for us and Ballarat," Sovereign Hill deputy chief executive Katrina Nitschke said in a statement before Christmas.
"We're so delighted to be open for summer 2021. Sovereign Hill is such a great place to visit with kids, friends and families. There's gold in the creek, characters performing in the street, lollies are being made, there is enthusiasm in the air - now is the best time to come and visit."